All posts for the month October | 1943 |

Fri. 29 Oct 8.20 a.m [1943]

The fog has persisted all the week. Think it will clear to-day. On Wed it cleared a few hours in the middle of the day and the clothes finished drying. I had put a fire in room as I did not think it would clear but as soon as I had got a [clothes-] horse-full round fire the sun broke thro’! I put sheets and heavy things out and everything was dry by dinner time and ironed before tea. Keith and Marian came on Thur aft. Also Lau[rence] who had travelled by night to get an extra day at home. He walked in before 8 a.m. to his mother’s surprise. Mary came with them but would not stay tea. Marian’s brother is in India now. He was in N.A. [North Africa] last year when Ron was. He has been hurt or wounded. He does not tell them what happened, only they are not to worry. He is out of hospital and on crutches now. Lau. has a stripe, he is in office work. He amused himself on piano for an hour or more after tea. Jean did not get much homework done. Keith and Marian chuckled over Nip. Ann [Nipper Annual] part of the time. She does her hair in the fashionable roll now. It is so pretty it looks nice however she does it. I had a letter from Frank Lewis’s new wife on Wed and a large piece of bride’s cake which was very good.

A lot of prisoners have been exchanged with Gers this week, the wounded of course. How pleased they will be to get home. They all say the Red + is a marvellous institution and that they would fare badly but for its care. We must give all we can to it. It does one good to read about the selfless actions amongst the prisoners. When one ship docked a man ran to the side and called “Cynthia”. A woman on quay-side answered and scores of men took up the cry. It seems she was taken prisoner in France whilst lorry driving and in the camp where she was interned she tended and nursed the sick and wounded. She is a cousin of Earl of Southesk. Then there is Viscount Normanton who thro’ the Red + got materials sent to him and taught 15 blind men to read Braille. Above all there is the major who would not come home, he is an ophthalmic surgeon and spends all his time operating and doctoring men whose eyes are injured. The Gers. have been very good in giving him facilities for doing this, and he wrote home to his wife for his case of instruments which was despatched and received. He has a wife and three bonny children yet altho’ he could have come home he elected to remain a prisoner so that he can continue to help his wounded, blinded fellow prisoners. He has already helped many back to sight again. He had written to his wife some time since to tell her he should not come this time. In spite of her disappointment, how proud she must feel and what a noble heritage to hand down to his children. All honour to those and countless more we shall never know of who imitate their Master who “went about doing good”.

[Aside: Household coal supply to be cut down again so must be extra careful.] Yesterday we posted Ron’s parcel and sincerely hope he gets it. Rene and I had both been wishing we could include cakes. As she said, “you don’t get the taste of home so well out of razor blades and soap etc.” However, we are not allowed to send anything eatable and of course they are not in need of it. Tom sent him a new pack of cards like those he gave us last year and we put a new face-flannel in and thread etc. Persil as he has to do his own washing, night-lights in a tin in case they melted. We sewed it up in a cotton covering over the paper one after packing them in a cardboard box. Letters have to be posted before Nov. 10. so must write to Jock again.

Frank Lewis, nephew, son of Jesse and Emily (May’s sister), had married Alice.

11th Earl of Southesk, Lord Carnegie, was related, by marriage, to the Royal family.

Lieutenant the Marquess of Normanby, of the Green Howards (not ‘Viscount Normanton’) and Major David Charters, Royal Army Medical Corps, an ophthalmic surgeon, were both prisoners of war who became attached to the German ‘POW Centre for the Blind’ at Kloster Haina.

Have you read an introduction to May Hill & family (includes photographs) and explored ‘The Casualties Were Small’?

Mon Oct. 25th 8.20 A.M [1943]

A thick fog this morning and rather cold at present. Hope it clears as I told Rene we would wash. So far I have done no Autumn cleaning and it’s time I did. We had another letter from Ron 16th Oct written on 2nd and Emmie one dated 6th so it is nice to be up to date again. He sounds very cheery in all of them. I wrote him a long letter last night and enclosed a 1944 calendar. We are sending a parcel this week for his birthday, Nov 26, and Xmas. We, at least, Rene got a nice leather writing case, a small one, at Sk[egness]. It has no zip but is very soft leather lined Kid. It cost 17/11. It won’t take up much space in his kit which is the main thing and will just keep his unanswered letters together and perhaps a snap or two. Emmie’s gloves have arrived, she is very chuff and she says he has bought Xmas presents for us all. Do hope they come safely. He is sleeping in a little bivouac tent now with Roy Paget his pal. Hope they have better billets for the winter as I think the nights are very cold. Says there are a lot of little lizards, very pretty and quite harmless which go like quicksilver when disturbed.

Mr Wilkinson A.R.P.W [air raid precautions warden] came for his [Ron’s] address on Friday. The B[ritish] Leg[ion] is sending parcels. It is over a year since we saw Ron. I can still see the train pulling out with Ron waving from a carriage window, and how I felt as if he was taking a part of me with him, feeling as if I must strain my eyes for as long as I could see him, knowing it might be that it was the last sight of him we should ever have. Emmie did get to Peterboro’ for a few days and he got to Yea. for a few hours. It is a year since the tide turned for us at Alamein and we won that first big battle on the borders of Libya and Egypt. Godfrey Talbot described it on Radio and the white cloud on the desert of 600 white crosses. Now 800 more British have laid down their lives in Italy in just over a month, more than that because that is only 5th Army and then there has been all the fighting in Africa and Sicily. It is a mad, bewildering, world.

Keith and Marian are here, it would be a sad homecoming, the first since Raymond’s death was reported.

“He sleeps where Southern vines are dressed
Above the noble slain.
O’er him the myrtle showers its leaves
By soft winds fanned.”

Roy Paget was Ron’s RAF friend in his unit in North Africa and Italy.

Mr Wilkinson, here, was very probably the retired policeman, Jack, the father of ‘Spitfire Ace’ Royce Clifford Wilkinson (see 29 May 1943). He used to recount his son’s exploits to Joe Kirk and fellow drinkers in the tap-room of the ‘Vine Hotel’ (see Village Map).

Godfrey Talbot was one of the best-known BBC war-correspondents.

The ‘Southern Vines’ epitaph was based on lines, slightly changed, from two verses of ‘The Graves of a Household‘ by Liverpool-born poet Felicia Dorothea, née Browne, Hemans (1793-1835). May had copied the original into her ‘Poetry’ exercise book when a pupil at the village school.

Have you read an introduction to May Hill & family (includes photographs) and explored ‘The Casualties Were Small’?

Oct 15 Friday 10. 45. P.M. [1943]

“We don’t miss anything in the world as much as we miss our burdens” from Palludia by Anna Robeson Burr.

We seem to have been very busy since I last wrote in my diary. came on 27th (Mon) in the afternoon. Rene and I had washed in the morning. She stayed until Friday aft. She is very quiet and eats so very little. I was pretty well while she was here but in bed until tea-time on the Sunday. Oct 4.

Went to Trusthorpe on Thur. (Jean and I) and Aunt J[et] came back with us vowing she was so ill-treated she would never return. Aunt Fanny Robinson was there but even that did not keep her at home. Aunt F is nearly 80 and getting frail but not blind like Aunt J. She has a nature too, very much different. I can see now that mother was much more like her in many ways, tho’ she was always thought to be most like Aunt J in looks. Aunt J is very trying, and after a week of her we took her back to Amy yesterday, indeed she refused to stay any longer tho’ I would have kept her over the week-end if she would have stayed. I could not cope with her long tho’. Poor Amy, no wonder she seems apathetic at times.

Aunt Jet with late husband Tom

Aunt Jet with late husband Tom

Aunt J is cantankerous and cross-opple-ed and even worse, but I think her mind is warped or gradually weakening. She eats far too much, Jean and I reckoned up one day and she had 9 meals and snacks in the 12 hours 8 a.m to 8.p.m. Still we got along as well or better than I expected, as I am a bit irritable and crotchety myself at times. We had a “fratch” or two when I got my foot in it, and when I did I put in a few words for her to think over at leisure, hoping they might react to Amy’s benefit. One tea-time, after getting it ready an hour before time, I had to re-sugar and re-milk her tea, still it wasn’t right, it needed more sugar (she had a whole lb in her tea and malted food in the week) more hot water and more milk still. Says me, “Your cup is full now” but it was “too hot to drink” so much exasperated I said, “Blow on it then, or wait until it cools”. She shut up, got her tea quite amiably and finally remarked to Rene, “what a good cup it was”, almost upsetting Rene’s equilibrium. Still, it was queer how I missed her last night and to-day, which is probably why the quotation at the beginning of to-day’s entry struck me when reading tonight.

Father is on watch, Jean and I are in bed, Jean has been to L.G.B. [Girls’ Life Brigade G.L.B.] and I am very tired. We are relieved to have had 7 letters from Ron this week, latest dated 21 Sep. Very cheerful too.

Anna Robeson Brown Burr was an American novelist/ essayist. ‘Palludia’ was published by Duffield & Company, New York, 1928.

Aunt Fanny, née Thorpe, Robinson, the widow of George Albert Robinson, was the eldest sister of May’s mother and Aunt Jet.

Have you read an introduction to May Hill & family (includes photographs) and explored ‘The Casualties Were Small’?

Oct 3/ 43.
Friday’s Child.

She came at the end of a day of wind and rain,

Winter loth to loose her hold tho’ far on the wane.

Spring came with the child so richly dowered;

Friday’s giftings of Loving and Giving upon her were showered.

All thro’ her life she has loved and given all,

Each gift lighting another star in heaven,

Her love enfolding deep rooted and strong,

Living for others, the whole day long.

Rene with Bill and pet rabbit

Rene with Bill and pet rabbit

‘Friday’s Child’ almost certainly refers to Rene, May’s elder daughter, whose birthday was on a Friday in early spring. May, whose health was fragile, relied very much on Rene’s support including help with the weekly washday.

The poem has been added to the poems collection on this site. It also appears in the book The Casualties Were Small which contains over twenty of May’s poems as well as selected diary extracts, including those which suggest the background to each poem, accompanied by many nostalgic photographs.

Have you read an introduction to May Hill & family (includes photographs) and explored ‘The Casualties Were Small’?